Tamils - a Nation without a State
- an estimated 300,000 Tamils live in Canada -
Maampalam Swamy, an Eelam Patriot Passes Away
Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah
16 December 2008
is with a deep sense of loss and sadness that we mourn the sudden
passing away of a great Eelam patriot Maampalam Swamy in New Jersey,
USA on 14, December 2008. A passionate advocate of peace, freedom
and dignity, he worked indefatigably to bring to the forefront the
prolonged pain and suffering of his people in Tamil Eelam and to
draw international attention to the genocide in Sri Lanka. He was a
committed humanist first and his compassion extended to all
humanity. He will remain a legendry figure to his people, the people
he had helped to uplift.
Whilst studying Theology in India he worked to improve the quality
of life of the poorest of the poor in Tamil Nadu. Fondly referred to
as Kulanthai (Baby) Swamy he is still remembered with much affection
and gratitude there, his photo adorning the homes of the many people
he had helped. When he visited the area after 35 years the whole
village was ecstatic, giving him a rousing reception that showed
that they never forgot.
He was proud of his Tamil heritage. While as an assistant parish
priest in the church of “Our Lady of Refuge” in Jaffna he was one of
the pioneers in the Catholic Church who celebrated the “Pongal
Festival” held annually in mid January as a “Tamil Festival”
integrating this very Tamil custom and tradition into the Tamil
Christian way of life. The “Pongal Festival” has now been accepted
and adopted as the “Tamil New Year” in Tamil Nadu by all Tamils
regardless of their religious background.
He strived to erase the pernicious practice of class and caste
divisions prevailing among Tamils. By encouraging all youth to work
together through sports and other activities he helped to break
these barriers in the Catholic Church where normally separate pews
were allocated to the high caste “elite”.
When serving in the Mannar district under the government’s land
alienation scheme for educated youth he not only helped both
educated young men and women to obtain land but also under a “youth
cooperative scheme” he arranged for them to learn agriculture and
farming methods to help cultivate the land and was instrumental in
improving the lot of Tamil youth.
In 1977 with government help he helped settle internally displaced
plantation workers affected by the pogrom against Tamils in a
purpose built village which he helped to create called “Valan Nakar”
complete with medical and transport facilities enabling them to live
in a peaceful and secure environment.
Maampalam Swamy believed in preserving the Tamil identity for
posterity and as an eloquent speaker he clearly articulated these
thoughts and ideas effectively. His charismatic personality and
sincerity of purpose won him the respect and veneration of the Tamil
people. He was committed to democracy and non-violence and was a
strong proponent of the concept of the right to self-determination
for Eelam Tamils, actively championing the cause of Eelam
While living in the US Maampalam Swamy became a prolific writer,
poet and lyricist, his writings were based on the Tamil language,
the Tamil freedom struggle and its history. He wrote “Azham
Vizhuthugal” and “Maampookal” and wrote the lyrics and produced the
song “Vedda Vedda Thazhaikum” in memory of tsunami victims. As a
testament to the love he had for his people and to their freedom he
recently released a CD named 'Viduthazhaiyin Vasazhil” (at the
gateway of freedom) and was in the midst of writing another book at
the time of his untimely demise.
Maampalam Swamy returned to Sri Lanka and to his native Tamil Eelam
in the aftermath of the tsunami in December 2004. He served in the
worst affected areas, providing counselling and relief to people
traumatized by the effects of decades of war and by a massive South
Asian tsunami that directly hit the island of Sri Lanka from the
East causing maximum devastation to Tamil areas. Since the promised
massive international humanitarian aid was not reaching the worst
affected people of the North and East, he worked ceaselessly upon
his return to the US to ensure that any humanitarian aid, he and
others secured from the Tamil Diaspora reached the actual victims.
A man of compassion and peace equally concerned for the welfare of
both the Tamils and Sinhalese he was deeply troubled by the war in
his native Tamil Eelam.
He will be sorely missed by not only Eelam Tamils all over the world
but others he has touched and inspired just simply in his daily
His life’s work will serve as a beacon of light for all freedom
activists and humanists alike.